Pacers in tough spot, G. Wallace rebounds and more
Posted: Tuesday April 10, 2007 5:53PM; Updated: Tuesday April 10, 2007 6:23PM
For all those angry Indiana Pacers fans who consider their team's 37-win pace to be an outright embarrassment this season, understand this: It really isn't much of a drop-off from what you should have expected. If you had higher expectations going into the season, then you were misguided.
Just like the Pacers' brain trust.
Really, this run of bad news started last summer, when Pacers brass (including CEO Donnie Walsh and president Larry Bird) decided to give the group it had assembled another chance even after an uninspiring 41-win season in 2005-06. The real mistakes started when Bird and Walsh passed on adding salary with Peja Stojajovic coming off the books (turning a trade exception acquired in his sign-and-trade deal into Al Harrington), and continued when they apparently didn't press hard for trades involving Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Jermaine O'Neal.
The last name seems an odd one to throw around, especially with the paucity of skilled big men bounding about this league, but O'Neal has done nothing over the last few years to prove that he's anything more than a second- or third-tier superstar making first-tier money. Not his fault, he just doesn't have the skill set to take over a team.
The others? Observing them was outright drudgery -- whether it came in the form of Jackson's poor defense and insistence on firing outside shots, the out-of-shape Tinsley's half-hearted activity level or Jasikevicius' bouts of moping. The whole thing should have been blown apart.
Now, those Pacers lost more than their fair share of close games last season (usually those even out to .500, no matter how good or bad the team), and one can always bank on a deserved run of good health after years of injury-tinged misfortune, but what could Walsh and Bird have possibly been expecting this season? A few wins tacked on to that .500 record? In that division? And though the Pacers were awfully active as it was last offseason, most of the pursuits seemed dubious at the outset.
In the 2006 draft, the team passed on UConn guard Marcus Williams and instead added Memphis' Shawne Williams with the 17th pick. Williams is a brilliant athlete, but he's the latest in a series of Indiana wing players with strong hops and questionable jump shots -- easily the NBA's most replaceable skill set. Marcus Williams is hardly a panacea, but on a team full of so-so offensive players who struggle to create a (low-percentage) shot every time down court, wouldn't the addition of another creative point guard ease things around the office a bit? And if Indiana passed on Marcus Williams to make a point about Tinsley's permanence, well, we already know how the 29-year-old lead guard responded to the commitment.
As for trading Austin Croshere's expiring contract to Dallas for Marquis Daniels, the Pacers received the sort of all-around talent who can turn around an offense. But Daniels has declined precipitously since a darn good rookie campaign.
It would appear that the only good move the Pacers have made over the last 12 months was the one most maligned when it was announced: sending Anthony Johnson to Dallas for Darrell Armstrong and spare, non-playing or since-traded parts. Johnson was considered a locker-room irritant with Indiana (and Dallas, apparently), and while Armstrong shoots too much from three-point range for someone who hasn't cracked the 35 percent mark in seven years, his per-minute numbers have nearly doubled since last season. Pity that improved locker-room disposition and competent reserve point guard play haven't made much mark in the standings.
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